Amazon Tax backfires

 

As is now the expected norm in California, the State Legislature and Governor do not want to leave money on the table.  And a budget shortfall of $28 billion is giving them plenty of incentives to stick taxes into every corner of the state economy that they can.

Democratic lawmakers passed ABX1 28, the “Amazon Tax”, which was signed by Jerry Brown on June 29th in an effort to raise $200 million from online retailers who sell products through Amazon.com.

But as is the case with “revenue generation” in Sacramento, it never takes into consideration that businesses, people, capital, and incentives are fluid.  Businesses can leave.  Employment can and will rise and fall as a direct result of spending decisions decreed by Sacramento.  The weather is great, but nobody is forced to stay in California and fight for decreasing job opportunities.  In fact, lawmakers should know this, as they met in Texas to find out why California companies relocate there mere months ago.

Amazon.com has a network of retailers who use the well-recognized company to sell products.  For example, if you were a small business owner who wanted to sell apparel online, you could set up an account with Amazon.com to allow online users to find your apparel and purchase it online.  The payment is facilitated by Amazon.com, you earn a profit, and the buyer is shipped the good.  This is great for California.  With such a high cost of living, it affords entrepreneurial citizens and taxpayers the ability to earn an above national average standard of living in California and while having access to literally a world of consumers.

Under ABX1 28, Amazon.com and other online retailers like Overstock.com (who has even spent money to have their name on the Overstock.com Coliseum in Oakland) have to collect the 7.25% from anyone purchasing a good from California because Amazon.com’s affiliates are located in California (not Amazon.com, located in Seattle).  So in an effort to not pay taxes, Amazon.com has severed it’s ties with over 10,000 smaller business in the state to be free of the economically disastrous laws of California.

Lawmakers state that they want an even playing field for both online retailers and brick-and-mortar retailers like Wal-Mart.  Of course, as Charles Dudley Warner said, politics makes strange bedfellows.  The only way Sacramento would defend Wal-Mart is to justify a supposedly $200 million revenue stream to the capitol.  It’s an excuse that is intended to sound fair.

And here’s where outcomes become less than stellar.  With Amazon.com severing ties, the state will collect significantly less than anticipated because the online transactions that drive sales revenue will not take place.  The products from those retailers will not be available to the online world of consumers.  Individual firms will lay off staff, which, on top of less than anticipated online sales tax revenue, equates to less state income taxes collected.  And with continual job destruction in a state with an unemployment rate of 11.7% (as of May 2011), further income uncertainty will lead to less discretionary spending and, thus, less sales revenue, on brick-and-mortar retailers in the state.  And property values, both commercial and residential, fall as a result of falling aggregate incomes.  Consider this on top of California ranking as the worst state to do business and the 47th most expensive state to do business.

Every municipal, state, and federal government needs to realize that job creation is the root of economic problems.  Creating jobs leads to increased revenues to the state.  While balancing budgets are a noble and right goal, squandering future economic opportunity to pay for a budget shortfall today and keep public employee unions happy only kicks the ball down the road when economic growth looks grim.

Amazon.com and online retailers can fight the law in court, stating that having affiliates does not constitute a physical presence of the company and fight the interpretation of a “long-arm statute” by the State Board of Equalization.  But in an effort to hedge against a legal system run by the same California political class, Amazon.com is now collecting signatures to qualify a measure on the February 7th ballot to overturn the law.

When issues like these are no longer considered politics as usual, California will be making progress.

Texas vs. California


Every now and then, we come across something that is simple and says it all. When comparing California with Texas, U-Haul says it all. To rent a 26-foot truck one-way from San Francisco to Austin is $1,840, and yet the one-way charge for that same truck from Austin to San Francisco is just $676. When more people want to move from San Francisco to Austin than vice versa, U-Haul must recoup the cost of getting empty trucks back from Texas and ready for the next person in the exodus.

The great thing about this example is that it’s a market price set in the real world—you don’t need to rely on a fancy economic model to see the point. People and businesses are voting with their feet, choosing Texas over California.

These population shifts do not reflect some arbitrary change in geographical preferences. People respond to incentives, and people are drawn to Texas by opportunity. Texas’ overall economic growth and income growth have exceeded California’s for the last decade, and since 2009, Texas has been responsible for 45% of the net new jobs created in the United States. In turn, Texas’ impressive economic performance is no accident; rather, it is the result of a strongly pro-growth economic policy atmosphere, reflected in low taxation, restrained government spending, and a less burdensome regulation.

Taxation

Let’s first consider the burden of taxation in Texas and California, beginning in particular with the tax burden on labor. People do not work to pay taxes. People work to earn the highest wages, after taxes. High or rising taxes on labor reduce workers’ after-tax wage, reducing the incentive to work. As a result, people have an incentive to leave a state with high taxes on labor income and relocate to a state where the taxes on labor income are lower, demonstrating George Gilder’s famous maxim: “High tax rates do not redistribute income, they redistribute people.” As people respond to these incentives, income growth, employment growth, and overall economic growth suffer in the state with high or rising taxes

California levies a progressive income tax system—as people’s income increases, the tax rate on the higher income increases. California imposes one of the highest top marginal state income tax rates in the country at 10.3 percent, and the marginal tax rate on the median household is 9.3 percent.

In contrast, Texas does not impose a state income tax. By definition, the marginal income tax rate for both the highest income earners and the average worker are zero percent. The practical result of this is that the median worker in California can achieve an after-tax raise simply by finding a job at the same wage in Texas. Texas derives a clear competitive advantage from its lack of an income tax.

In addition to the negative incentives to work, California’s progressive income tax code largely explains why hard times seem to hit California harder than other states. Tax progressivity exaggerates the normal ups-and-downs of the overall economy: when times are good, California citizens earn more and move into higher tax brackets, thereby giving the state a larger fraction of a bigger pie. But then an opposite effect holds true during recession: People earn less income in general, thereby shrinking the tax base even as many fall into lower tax brackets and pay a smaller fraction of smaller paychecks. If the state committed to a higher than efficient spending path when times were good, budget crises are likely to emerge when times are bad.

Next, consider the variety of taxes that constitute the tax burden on capital. California has an advantage over Texas in that it has a lower property tax rate as a result of Proposition 13. But Texas overwhelms this advantage with lower taxes on corporate income, interest income, and capital gains income. The after-tax interest and capital gains income for a $1,000 investment is 11.5 percent higher in Texas than in California for the exact same investment. As a result, Texas gains a significant competitive edge vis-à-vis California in attracting businesses and investors.

The final significant tax area, the tax on consumption, is essentially a wash between the two states. While Texas has a lower sales tax rate, California has a marginally lower sales tax burden. (Found by dividing sales tax revenue by total state income.)

With every other tax category in Texas’ favor, the Lone Star State clearly maintains a more competitive economic atmosphere with regard to overall taxation than California. Just as important as the current statistics on taxation are the ongoing trends, and again the signs are not encouraging for California. Where Texas’ tax burden, smaller than California’s to begin with, has been falling in recent years, California’s tax burden continues to rise.

Regulation

Texas also gains a significant competitive advantage through limited regulation when compared with California. Just like excessive taxes, excessive regulation raises the costs of doing business, thereby stunting economic growth. For example, high levels of worker’s compensation increase the costs from employing additional workers, increasing unemployment and decreasing a state’s potential economic growth. Texas’ average workers compensation costs are 11% less than California’s, making it significantly more appealing to add workers to a payroll in Texas.

Minimum wage is another significant regulatory policy. Where Texas requires businesses to meet only the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, California mandates that businesses pay a minimum wage of $8 per hour. Minimum wage laws can have only one of two effects. Either the minimum wage is below the wage that would be paid to any employee, so it is irrelevant; or, the minimum wage law raises the wage costs for employers, leading to greater unemployment. By imposing a minimum wage in excess of the federal minimum wage, California is unnecessarily increasing employer costs, thereby reducing business flexibility and overall employment in the state. These effects do not exist in Texas, providing Texas’ regulatory environment with another comparative advantage.

A final regulatory aspect to consider is a state’s treatment of unions. States are divided into two distinct categories with respect to their union organizing laws. They are either right-to-work, which means workers have the right not to join a union, or non-right-to-work, which means that workers are forced to join a union and pay dues if they work in a unionized industry. The evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact that right-to-work states have much greater growth of employment than non-right-to-work states. Texas is a “right-to-work” state; California is not.

Spending

The final policy area, spending, impacts the state economy for two reasons. First, before the government can spend revenues it must first take money away from the private sector. As governments get larger and larger, the value of the dollar taken away from the private sector is greater if it were spent in the private sector than the value of the money if the government spent it. As a consequence, government spending lowers the total potential output in the state. Second, larger government spending today oftentimes begets even greater government spending and activity tomorrow. In other words, the threat of higher tax and regulatory burdens grows as the size of the government grows.

California’s spending record is dismal in comparison with Texas. Texas’ current expenditures per capita are 44 percent smaller than California’s per capita expenditures. Furthermore, California’s expenditures have grown at a higher rate than Texas’ in recent years. Therefore, the gap in expenditure between Texas and California will only grow in the years to come. Higher future taxes, increased fiscal crises, and slower economic growth will all follow as a result of the rising government expenditures in California. In the area of spending, Texas’ prudence and restraint again give it a significant competitive advantage over California.

Conclusion

Both Texas and California have large populations, plentiful natural resources, and the allure of geography. Moreover, the economies of both states have outperformed national trends. But current policies matter for future economic performance. Texas’ superior policies over the past several years are making the Lone Star State more resilient to economic downturns and will provide powerful tailwinds for the Texas economy going forward. The opposite is true for California. The relative success of Texas gives California policy-makers a realistic goal to shoot for. If they can do it in Texas, they can do it in California, too.

Arthur B. Laffer is Chairman of Laffer Associates, Co-Author of “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index” now in its 4th Edition, and the Laffer Center’s Distinguished Chair in Supply-Side Economics.

Mary Katherine Stout is the Executive Director of the Laffer Center for Supply-Side Economics at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Golden State No More

 

 

When our company recently expanded the number of its restaurants in Texas, I was startled to receive a call from Governor Rick Perry thanking me for our decision.

In the 10 years I’ve been CEO of CKE Restaurants, owner of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands, no governor had ever made such a gesture. Perry went further during our conversation and asked what it would take to move our headquarters from California to Texas.

This is a question weighing on many California CEOs right now. Do we grow our businesses here where the tax and regulatory hurdles remain high, or do we relocate to a more business-friendly state like Texas?

CKE’s history in California stretches back to 1941 when Orange County entrepreneur Carl Karcher and his wife Margaret bought a hotdog cart for $311. Today, we have over 72,000 employees, approximately 18,500 of them in California.

We at CKE love California, but the hard truth is this:  California is the most business-unfriendly state in which we operate. While we have kept our corporate headquarters in California so far, our company’s real job-creating engine has already moved.  Our current plans for domestic development are principally centered in Texas where it is easier to build and operate restaurants, unemployment is lower, and consumers can spend more of the money they earn because there is no state income tax.   While we will continue to operate our existing California restaurants, we will be building 300 new restaurants in Texas this decade.

When we open a new restaurant we invest over $1.2 million in the community and create about 25 permanent jobs within the restaurant itself, not to mention the numerous outside jobs supported by our constructing, maintaining, advertising and supplying food and paper products to the restaurant.  Texas’ business-friendly environment is one of the reasons its unemployment rate remains below the national average while California faces one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, fleeing businesses and a severe erosion of its tax base.  Our 300 new restaurants will create about 8,000 new jobs in the restaurants in Texas and at least 16,000 additional jobs for our suppliers and service providers.  These are jobs we would love to create in California.

What it would take to bring our business development back to California? I would offer the following suggestions:

Reduce out of control permit costs and construction regulation. Excessive fees, oppressive environmental regulations, exorbitant street maintenance costs and unreasonable construction permitting requirements unique to California add up to $200,000 in additional costs for each restaurant and can take up to two years to process through state and local bureaucracies.  On average, the permitting process in California takes about 8 months.  In Texas, it takes six weeks.  That time difference alone materially increases our costs to open a new restaurant.

Allow managers to be paid as managers. California considers General Managers subject to overtime salary requirements if they work 50% of their time in non-managerial tasks.  This is not the case in most states or under federal law.  Our General Managers receive substantial salaries, bonuses and benefits to run their restaurants as entrepreneurs, like they own them.  In the great majority of states, our General Managers can do their jobs as they see fit whether the tasks they choose to perform are strictly managerial or as simple as speaking with guests and busing tables in the dining room.  If you are managing a restaurant and a cook fails to show up, you had better know how to cook and be prepared to do so.  While that is a non-managerial task, it is exactly what you would do if you owned the restaurant.  To avoid costly class action lawsuits on overtime claims in California, many retail businesses, including ours, have had to convert their salaried General Managers to hourly employees so they can do their jobs.   Our General Managers consider this a demotion but we have little choice.  It is simply common sense that General Managers should be classified as managers able run their restaurants as they choose.

Eliminate the overtime work day, pay overtime on a weekly basis. California requires overtime for employees working more than eight hours a day, not just those working over 40 hours a week as in most states. This deprives employees of the flexibility to work six hours one day and make up the time on another. Because managers are also hourly employees, this limits their ability to work more hours on busy days and fewer hours on others without again incurring overtime costs.  We have actually had to terminate General Managers for working overtime; in other words running their businesses as if they owned them, and failing to claim the overtime. A failure to do so would result in the very class action lawsuits we made them hourly employees to avoid.  The reality is that California law is requiring us to fire general Mangers for doing their jobs.  This law also impacts our crew employees who can ill afford to lose working hours in this economic environment.  Such employees may want to work 6 hours on one day, for family or personal reasons or to attend school events, and 10 hours on another day so we can compensate them for a full forty hours.  In California, that is not an option.

Simplify the confusing meal and rest break laws. These laws are so complex that it is difficult for employers or employees to understand the requirements, let alone comply with them.  Opportunistic lawyers often sue companies for minor and often unintentional violations. Employees, including our General Managers, are forced to take breaks during the busiest times of the day, to their frustration as well as that of their co-workers and customers.  You may have seen restaurant employees sitting in the dining room while you wait in a long line for “fast food.”  They are taking their mandatory rest breaks.

Tame the lawyers. With some 200,000 lawyers, California needs to put some limit on their ability to file class action lawsuits against some perceived threat as though each one were his or her own private attorney general. Like many California businesses, our company has wasted $20 million defending such cases in the last eight years, a majority of that money going to the attorneys’ pockets rather than to the creation of economic prosperity.  This is a major impediment to businesses deciding to grow in California as opposed to other states.

Reduce oppressive state taxes. California has some of the highest tax rates in the nation for businesses and personal incomes. The state must lower taxes to retain the businesses it has and to encourage others to locate or expand here.

California is one of the most beautiful locations in the country and California’s labor pool remains, for now, the most creative and knowledgeable in the world. We want to stay and we would like nothing better than re-energizing our job creating restaurant development here in California. But the laws and regulations I have discussed add substantial additional costs to doing business here and create the impression that our State government fails to understand or value the contributions private enterprise makes to the State’s prosperity.  In essence, it is very difficult and expensive to build a restaurant in California.  If you manage to build it, California law makes it onerously difficult to operate.  If you manage to build it and operate it at a profit, you are hit with a big tax.  The decision whether to grow in California or another more business friendly state is really quite simple.

Over the last two years, whenever I tried to discuss these issues with state political leaders, I was either brushed off or told there was a lack of political will for change.  That changed in February when Governor Brown, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Lieutenant Governor and legislators from both sides of the aisle contacted me concerning these issues.  Whether these discussions will result in any progress is yet to be seen, but at least we are talking.

Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, any legitimate political agenda requires prosperity for the people of California.  Absent another unsustainable economic surge such as the dot-com boom or the housing bubble, to again experience economic prosperity California must strengthen the fundamentals of its business community by reducing both regulations and taxes.

Andrew Puzder is the CEO, CKE Restaurants and author of Job Creation, How it really Works and Why the Government Doesn’t Understand it

Teachers unions continue their assault on school choice in California by Larry Sand


The California Federation of Teachers is sponsoring AB 401 – which if passed would limit charter school growth in California.

In April, Rasmussen Reports released the results of a poll which addresses American voters’ sentiments about our public schools. Some of the more interesting findings are:

• 72% say taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth from our schools, while only 11% think we are.
• By a margin of 41-34 (25% were unsure), those polled said that spending more money on education would not improve student performance.
• 61% believe that public educat ion has become worse over the last ten years. [Read more…]

When elephants fly – the end of the dreaded RDAs

By Shawn Steel

California National Committeeman

Republican National Committee

Something strange happened in the first six months of the Jerry Brown administration. He killed the invidious Redevelopment Agencies [RDA] which many California cities used to confiscate private property against unwilling land owners, in the name of abolishing “blighted” neighborhoods. Through Assembly bill 26X, the legislature voted to disband redevelopment agencies unless they are willing to share property tax revenue in the future to help finance public schools.

[Read more…]

Mend, don’t end, redevelopment

By Richard Lyon, Senior Vice President, California Building Industry Association

California’s Economic Development Department recently reported that our state shed more than 29,000 jobs in the month of May – giving rise to fears that the California economy could be headed for a double dip recession.  In light of this reality, you’d think that policymakers in Sacramento would be doing everything they could to increase job opportunities and stimulate economic growth in our state.

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

Rather than work to create jobs, the Legislature last week passed legislation to effectively abolish local redevelopment agencies in California. In doing so, the Legislature has turned its back on one of the few economic development tools available to local governments’ to create jobs and economic opportunity.

Eliminating redevelopment is bad economic policy and will kill jobs and economic expansion at the worst possible time.  Statewide:

  • Redevelopment activities support an average of 304,000 full- and part-time private sector jobs in a typical year, including 170,600 construction jobs;
  • Redevelopment contributes over $40 billion annually to California’s economy in the generation of goods and services; and
  • Redevelopment construction activities generate $2 billion in state and local taxes in a typical year.

Abolishing redevelopment is extremely shortsighted. California’s construction sectors are experiencing historically high levels of unemployment. More so now than ever before, California needs to embrace policies of opportunity and economic growth.

Redevelopment offers that hope of opportunity and growth. It works to kick-start construction in urban areas that the business community largely cannot undertake on its own. By remediating environmental waste, building basic infrastructure, and making other improvements, redevelopment lures private investment in housing, jobs and businesses that otherwise would not occur. These investments mean jobs and opportunity in our most downtrodden communities.

Fortunately, by vetoing the main budget bills, the Governor has temporarily postponed the implementation of the redevelopment elimination legislation. The Legislature should take this time to pull back the legislation.

Instead of abolishing redevelopment, the legislature should instead adopt the compromise reforms being supported by a broad coalition of local governments, organized labor, housing advocates and business leaders that would reform redevelopment to strengthen what works and eliminate what doesn’t.

SB 286 (Wright) and AB 276 (Alejo) significantly enhance transparency and accountability, reduce the footprint of redevelopment, provide funding to schools, and ensure more targeted uses of redevelopment dollars.

Eliminating redevelopment will thrust our state economy into further recession, by reducing jobs and stalling economic growth. We should mend rather than end redevelopment. It is an essential tool to improve our economy and stimulate job-creation.

Governor axes redevelopment—Finally the bleeding stops

By Chris Norby, Assemblyman, 72nd District

Yesterday, Governor Brown formally signed AB26x, a long-overdue bill that ends redevelopment agencies in California as we have known them for over 50 years.

Redevelopment was originally created by the legislature to address urban blight and to revitalize decaying residential and commercial districts. Cities were empowered to create local redevelopment agencies with enhanced powers to divert property taxes, sell bonds, expand eminent domain and subsidize private development.

By the 1980s, a tool once used by a few large older cities had spread statewide. Newer suburbs were declaring raw land to be blighted to build new malls, auto plazas and big box retail centers—all subsidized at taxpayer expense. By 2000, over 30% of all urbanized land statewide had been declared blighted and included in redevelopment areas.

Tax increment financing diverted ever more property tax revenues into redevelopment agencies—at the expense of public safety and education. By 2010, over 12% of tax revenues had been hijacked by redevelopment agencies—over $6 billion statewide.

Eminent domain became the tool of choice to assemble the huge new parcels needed for redevelopment projects—all motivated by promised economic benefits. Homeowners, small merchants and even churches were targeted for taking on behalf of politically connected developers.

Repeated studies showed that redevelopment subsidies produced no net economic benefits. Savvy retailers, auto dealers and NFL team owners played one city against another for greater subsidies and land write-downs, but for the state as a whole it was a zero-sum game. California became littered with half empty malls, auto plazas and strip centers all over-built with huge public subsidies.

Meanwhile, bonded indebtedness soared to $90 billion, as agencies could encumber future property taxes without a vote of their constituents.

With the state facing a $25 billion shortfall, the losses to redevelopment agencies became unsustainable. The state could no longer backfill the fiscal bleeding to local schools and services. The signing of AB 26x saves the state budget an immediate $1.7 billion. Once the debts are paid off the full $6 billion annually will be restored to fund public services and education.

Redevelopment was never indented to be a permanent drain on the public treasury, never intended to be a permanent cash cow to subsidize development that the market alone could not support.  Credit Governor Brown for ending a program that had long outlived its usefulness.

Opposing View: Eliminating Redevelopment Agencies threatens local cities, services

by Lacy Kelly, CEO

Association of California Cities – Orange County


The Association of California Cities – Orange County (ACC-OC) believes that redevelopment agencies need reform, not elimination.

In fact, the vast majority of redevelopment agencies and the projects they oversee are proven economic generators for California’s cities and provide exceptional returns on investment for the taxpayer.

Balancing these benefits with meaningful change is precisely why the ACC-OC developed a comprehensive set of redevelopment reform best practices. These ideals are meant to protect the new jobs, tax revenue and beneficial projects produced by the redevelopment process, while simultaneously addressing the isolated problems.

For example, we believe in greater transparency in the redevelopment process through robust online disclosures. In fact, our principles require that agencies post the past five years of redevelopment expenditures as well as all future funding obligations. Additionally, taxpayer oversight committees should be mandated for all redevelopment agencies in order to ensure that the original intent of redevelopment is protected and government abuse eliminated.

In Orange County, for example, the Orange County Transportation Authority has had great success with its Measure M-mandated Taxpayer Oversight Committee. This panel scrutinizes projects and expenditures against the original intent of the voter-approved half-cent sales tax. This can serve as a model for all redevelopment agencies.

We strongly recommend that redevelopment agencies also follow consistent, statewide benchmarks to curb abuse, including:

  • Cap administrative costs at 20 percent
  • Prohibit land banking for speculative purposes
  • Promote and develop affordable housing within redevelopment projects

All of the ACC-OC’s Redevelopment Best Practices can be found online at www.ACCOC.org/publications.

The ACC-OC agrees that redevelopment reform is needed.  But we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The wholesale elimination of a tool that creates jobs, increases revenues and removes blight during a time when cities are struggling to keep police on the streets and parks maintained is highly misguided and threatens economic viability in many California communities.

The ACC-OC will continue its vocal support for redevelopment agencies and champion the reforms necessary to ensure that they remain healthy, sustainable tools for California cities.

Eliminating Redevelopment Agencies: A Good Idea Implemented For the Wrong Reasons

By Allan Mansoor – Assemblyman, 68th District

Last week I voted to end redevelopment agencies (RDAs). While RDAs have been the source of wasteful spending at the local level, the biggest problem with RDAs is that they are a conduit used to initiate eminent domain actions against private property owners. In doing so, cities pick winners and losers by interfering with the free market.

The proposal to end RDAs was introduced by Democrats. Democrats generally oppose eminent domain reform measures and regularly use RDAs to support earmarked spending in their districts. With this in mind, their proposal deserved skepticism. What was their motive?

At a time of major budget deficits, the Democrat budget proposal included cuts to education along with increases to welfare and social services and new benefits to public employees. Their motivation in ending RDAs wasn’t an altruistic vision that RDAs are wrong. They wanted RDA money to pay off their public employee union supporters.

Redevelopment agencies are funded from the $45 billion Californians pay in property taxes. The RDA money in question is about $1 billion in savings that will be recognized after RDAs are eliminated. These are property tax revenues that I think should remain with local government. I am aware that there is abuse at the local level, but that abuse pales in comparison to what can happen at the state level where the abuse is more severe and more difficult to correct.

Raiding local treasuries is particularly troublesome in the current economic environment. I served on the Costa Mesa City Council and am aware of the fiscal crises facing many cities. For many cities, the unexpected taking of RDA funds is going to make tough times even worse.

The measure to end RDAs was actually two measures. One ended RDAs and the other took their money. My Republican colleagues who called the proposal a “money grab” were right when they focused only on the end result. But taken by itself, the bill to end RDAs was one of the most important pieces of legislation affecting private property rights in recent memory. I supported it even though I opposed the other. Unfortunately, the money-grab-measure passed.

In California, even the slightest victory in the fight for protecting property rights is cause for celebration, but victories public employee unions give us on a silver platter are hollow victories. As long as public employee unions control Sacramento, they can recreate RDAs anytime RDAs will serve their interests.

Let Freedom Fest ring

Join us at Freedom Fest! Come be a part of the world’s largest gathering of free minds at Bally’s Las Vegas from July 14-16, 2011. We will be hosting a panel discussion, featuring Brian Calle, editor of the California Political Review. The following editorial from the Orange County Register provides more details on the exciting weekend of free political thought, discuss and debate.

Originally published June 24, 2011

Anyone curious about the direction of the conservative or libertarian movements, priorities for Tea Party enthusiasts or Republicans – or anyone generally interested in the hottest topics for right-leaning politicos – ought to pay close attention to what happens at Freedom Fest, set for July 14-16 in Las Vegas. This conference may be a bellwether for issues going into next year’s presidential election and could well help shape the debate during the GOP presidential nomination season.

Freedom Fest is dubbed “The worlds largest gathering of free minds,” where some of the most influential free-market, right-leaning intellectuals, business leaders, political pundits, entrepreneurs, activists and economists discuss and debate political and economic issues ranging from the national debt, inflation, foreign policy, public employee unions, technology, drug legalization, school choice, education reform, inflation and health care.

Last year an estimated 2,000-plus attendees filled Bally’s Hotel and Casino for the event. Organizer and founder Mark Skousen hopes participants this year will number more than 3,000.

Scheduled speakers include Steve Forbes, on “Are We Headed for an American Revolution – or a French Revolution?” The libertarian co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, will speak on “Stalled Technology in America: End of the Future?” Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will talk about “Re-Branding Capitalism in the 21st Century.” Register Columnist Brian Calle and contributor Steven Greenhut will speak on public-sector pensions, education reform, California government and military interventionism.

Representatives from the Cato Institute, Reason Magazine, Hillsdale College, the Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heritage Foundation, the Pacific Research Institute and others are scheduled to participate.

Last year’s Freedom Fest reflected the political mood of a large segment of the electorate, and signaled a change in sentiment nationally that ultimately ushered in to office more conservatives and Republicans. This year, we hope the session again delivers greater insights into the political winds of the liberty movement for this election cycle.